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Soc Sci Med. 2009 May;68(9):1737-44. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.02.033. Epub 2009 Mar 14.

"Nuts, schiz, psycho": an exploration of young homeless people's perceptions and dilemmas of defining mental health.

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University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.


Through our research we explore the term 'mental health' as articulated by a group of young people living in homeless shelters utilising staff in a mental health service. This mental health service was offered in 5 large geographical areas (urban, semi-urban and rural) in England to 18 homeless shelters and we interviewed 25 homeless young people, 5 Mental Health Coordinators and 12 homeless shelter staff. Using discourse analysis of semi-structured interviews, we investigate the ideological dilemmas presented by the young people. They report negative and stigmatising descriptions of mental health despite their involvement with a mental health service. Four key interpretative repertoires are identified; denial of problems, mental health as negative, the need to talk, and challenging prejudice. It is concluded that the term 'mental health', which appears in the title of the service (of which they are clients), presents barriers for usage but works to challenge prejudice and educate young people. Discussion of the implications of naming services and the importance of shared meanings are considered.

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